ICSS Fall Conference a Landslide Winner

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar

The Illinois Council for the Social Studies (ICSS) held its fall conference last Friday at Harper College in Palatine. 144 in- and pre-service teachers attended, collectively casting their votes for this year’s election-oriented theme. They accessed a combined 32 breakout sessions, four of them featuring members of our #CivicsIsBack Campaign, including two led by our Illinois Civics Teacher Mentors.

Lead Teacher Mentor Mary Ellen Daneels paired with Boone-Winnebago Mentor Teresa Kruger for a session on current and controversial issues. Daneels later worked with West Cook Mentor Justin Jacobek (pictured below) on a legislative simulation surrounding automatic voter registration. Wayde Grinstead of Facing History and Ourselves, one of our core civic education organizational partners, presented a session on their Choices in Little Rock curriculum.

My own session was on engaging students with the public policy process that follows elections as a means of addressing the new civics course requirement and emerging social studies standards. Stay tuned for future posts on this topic, along with related professional development opportunities.

Cook County Clerk David Orr (pictured below) served as the luncheon keynote and proclaimed that “democracy is still an experiment.” His 25-year tenure, preceded by 11 years as alderman and seven-day mayoral term, has embodied this basic truth, attempting to expand access to citizens through common sense reforms like the student election judge program, same-day registration (SDR), and AVR.

For example, lost in the recent debate over the constitutionality of our SDR law in Illinois is the fact that many voters show up to the polls on Election Day fully believing that they are legitimately registered. However, many of us move between election cycles and fail to update our registration records. SDR provides a failsafe backup for those that forget.

AVR was vetoed this August by Governor Rauner, and Orr has since led vocal opposition to this action. He holds out hope for a veto override this November, and if not, to begin the effort anew come January.

The #CivicsIsBack fall tour winds its way to back to Charleston this week for the 37th annual History and Social Studies Teacher Conference at Eastern Illinois University. I’m slated to keynote, mentors Jim Hammer and Aubrey Hale will present sessions, and organizational partner Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago is leading a series of workshops.

While Election 2016 has been a time to try teachers’ souls, we are clearly rallying behind our profession and the critical importance of our collective work.

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